How Do You Treat a Groin Pull?

Medically Reviewed by Shruthi N, MD on June 13, 2024
9 min read

You may get a groin pull, or a muscle strain in your groin, from putting too much stress on the muscles in your groin and thighs. If you tense your muscles too much, too forcefully, or too suddenly, they can get overstretched or torn, causing muscle strain.

Anyone can strain their groin, especially if they exert themselves harder than usual. You may also be at risk if you've had a hip or groin injury before, are older than 65 years, have weak muscles in your groin, are tired, have a decreased range of motion, or haven't stretched well before exercising.

Groin pulls are most common in people who play sports that require a lot of running and jumping. In particular, if you play a sport where you need to stop, twist, or change direction suddenly. For instance, groin pulls often happen in people who play soccer, football, hockey, or basketball.

Which muscle groups are involved in a pulled groin?

Three muscle groups are located in your groin and connect your lower belly to your thighs. These include:

  • Lower abdominal (belly) muscles
  • Iliopsoas (pronounced i-lee-uh-sow-uhs) muscles that connect your spine to your hips and legs
  • Adductor muscles, which are a group of six muscles in your hips and thighs

These three muscle groups come together at your pelvis and are attached to tendons and ligaments. Groin strains are common in:

  • The upper thigh muscles, such as the adductor longus muscle, which you use to move your leg from side to side
  • The tendons that attach your adductor muscle to your hip bones
  • The abdominal muscles, such as the internal oblique muscle, that attach at your hips

Here are some symptoms of a groin pull:

  • Pain and tenderness in the groin and the inside of the thigh
  • Pain when you bring your legs together
  • Pain when you raise your knee
  • A popping or snapping feeling during the injury, followed by severe pain

Groin pulls are often divided into three degrees of severity:

  • 1st degree: Mild pain, but little loss of strength or movement
  • 2nd degree: Moderate pain, mild to moderate strength loss, and some tissue damage
  • 3rd degree: Severe pain, severe loss of strength and function due to a complete tear of the muscle

To diagnose a groin pull, your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. Tests such as X-rays and MRIs may be needed to rule out other problems.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a groin pull and a hernia. The symptoms can be very similar. A hernia is when fat or a loop of your intestine pokes through a hole in the wall of muscle in your belly. You may get a hole where your muscles are weaker, such as:

  • Close to an old surgical cut or scar
  • Next to your belly button
  • In your upper belly
  • In your groin (most common)

If you have a hernia in your groin (also called an inguinal hernia), you'll likely feel a lump in your groin. This is the tissue that's poking through the hole in your belly muscle. You won't have this with a groin pull, so this is a way of telling the two apart. Inguinal hernias are very common, especially as you get older. Having multiple groin strains can increase the chance that you'll get a hernia later on.

Talk to your doctor if you have pain in your groin, especially if you can also feel a lump. If it's a hernia, you may need surgery to repair it.

Most groin pulls will heal on their own. You just need to give it some time and rest. Your doctor will likely recommend the RICE method:

Rest. Stop doing whatever you were doing that caused the strain.

Ice. Use an ice pack or cold compress for 10-15 minutes every hour for the first day. After the first day, use ice every 3-4 hours for 2-3 days, or until your pain is gone. Make sure you wrap the ice pack in a towel before applying. Don't put ice directly on your skin.

Compression. This reduces blood flow to your injury and reduces swelling. Use a compression bandage, compression shorts, or pants.

Elevation. Lift your leg or lower body above the level of your heart. Support yourself with pillows, blankets, or cushions.

If you don't get relief using the RICE method, try taking anti-inflammatory painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help ease your pain and swelling. However, these drugs can have side effects. So, use them occasionally or for fewer than 10 days in a row unless your doctor specifically says otherwise.

Most of the time, these conservative treatments will do the trick, but not always. If you have a severe strain, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the torn muscle or reattach tendons or ligaments to your bones. This is rare, and you may not be able to return to your previous level of activity afterward. So, discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor. You should also consider getting a second opinion.

A groin pull can become chronic if you don't figure out why it happened. It's important to find the cause so you can stop doing that activity or make modifications so you can continue doing it safely. Your doctor or a physical therapist can examine your core, hips, and lower extremities for weakness or instability that could be adding stress to your groin. Treating any dysfunctions affecting your groin may help speed up your recovery and lessen your risk of recurrence.

To help you heal, your doctor may suggest you try active stretching and strengthening exercises. Depending on your grade of injury, you may start stretching immediately or you may need several days of rest before you start. Use your pain level to guide you. If you're in pain, be gentle with your stretching, or don't stretch at all. If you stretch too aggressively, you could cause further damage.

Some stretches and exercises that may help during your recovery include:

Hip adductor stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Gently spread your knees apart to stretch the muscles on the inside of your thighs. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat three times.

Hamstring stretch on the wall. Lie with your butt close to a doorway. Stretch your uninjured leg straight out in front of you through the doorway. Raise your injured leg to rest against the wall next to the door frame. Keep this leg as straight as possible so you can feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat three times. 

Straight leg raise. Lie on your back with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knee on your uninjured leg and put your foot flat on the floor. Tighten your thigh muscle on your injured side to lift your leg about 8 inches off the floor. Keep your leg straight and your thigh muscles tight. Slowly lower your leg back down. Repeat 15 times. Then rest and do another set of 15.

Isometric adductor ball squeeze. Lie on your back with your legs bent and a soccer ball (or other ball about the same size) between your knees. Squeeze your knees together and hold for 30 seconds. Rest for about 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Bridge with adductor ball squeeze. Lie on your back with your legs bent and a soccer ball (or other ball about the same size) between your knees. Squeeze your knees together and lift your butt off the floor. Push down through your feet and keep squeezing the ball. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat this six to eight times, two or three times a day.

Side-lying leg lifts. Lie on the same side as your groin strain with your top leg bent and resting on the floor. Raise your bottom leg as high as you can comfortably go. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat 10-12 times two to three times a day.

Standing resistance band hip adduction. Attach a length of resistance band to something firmly fixed in place. Loop the other end around your ankle. Standing with this leg out to the side, pull your leg inward to touch your knees together. Slowly relax your leg back out to the side. Repeat 10-12 times two to three times a day.

Your recovery time will depend in part on how serious your groin pull is. As a rough estimate, most mild or moderate groin strains may take 4-8 weeks to fully heal. Severe strains or chronic strains may take several months to heal.

In the meantime, switch to a new activity that won't put too much stress on your groin muscles. For instance, if you usually run, try swimming for a few weeks instead. This can help maintain your level of cardiovascular fitness while also allowing your groin muscles to heal before you get back to your regular training schedule.

Whatever you do, don't rush things. Don't try to return to your old level of physical activity until:

  • You can move your leg on the injured side as freely and as easily as your other leg
  • The leg on your injured side feels as strong as the leg on the uninjured side
  • You feel no pain when you walk, then jog, then sprint, and finally jump

If you start pushing yourself before your groin pull is healed, you could reinjure yourself. And if you get further groin pulls, they may be harder to treat and take longer to heal. They can even lead to permanent disability.

Given that groin pulls can be painful and debilitating, the best advice is to prevent them. You should:

  • Always warm up your legs and groin muscles before physical activity. Studies show that a light jog or other activities that increase your body temperature before your main workout or practice can reduce your risk of muscle stains.
  • Wear shoes with good support that fit well.
  • Increase the intensity of your physical activity slowly -- exercise experts recommend a maximum of a 10% increase a week.
  • Stop exercising if you feel pain or tightness in your groin or the inside of your thigh.
  • Do regular strengthening exercises for your thigh muscles, especially if you've had a groin pull before.

If you have any muscle weakness in your groin, you may have a higher risk of injuries. If you play sports and have a history of groin injuries, ask your doctor or physical therapist about activities that can help reduce your risk of getting another strain.

Groin strains are injuries to the muscles in your groin. They can affect anyone, but they're one of the most common injuries in sports like hockey and soccer. Most cases heal on their own with time and rest. You can help yourself heal using the RICE method. Wait until your doctor says it’s okay to get back out on the ice, field, or court. Once you do, you can help prevent a groin pull by warming up and stretching before you start your main workout or practice.

Is walking good for a groin pull?

It usually depends on how serious your strain is. Most people can walk after a groin strain, but you shouldn't do intense exercise until you've recovered. If you have a severe strain, you may need to use crutches or a walker for the first few days.

Should I stretch a pulled groin?

If your groin strain isn't serious, you may be able to begin stretching right away. Be gentle with your body and stop if you have pain. If you have significant pain, stop stretching, ice your injury, and try again in a couple of days. If your strain is more serious, your doctor may recommend you wait a few days before you start a stretching program.

What is the best position for groin strain relief?

The best way to get relief from groin strain is to use the RICE method. As part of this method, you lie on your back and put a pillow or blanket under your hips to elevate your hips and thighs above your heart. This can help bring down your swelling and reduce any discomfort.

How do you treat sore adductor muscles?

One of the best ways to reduce soreness is to use the RICE method. You can also use ibuprofen or naproxen if necessary, provided you have no reason to avoid them (such as high blood pressure or ulcers). Just make sure you don't take them for more than 10 days in a row because this can increase your risk of bleeding and stomach problems.